Timeline of the Syrian Civil War (January–April 2011)

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Small protests started in Syria on 28 January 2011. Large protests erupted on 15 March and grew stronger; their clampdown by the Syrian regime became violent on 16 March, deadly on 18 March, and grew harsher. For the background of these protests, see: Background of the Syrian protests (2011). By 25 April 2011, many, or all, international prominent news media were unanimous that these events in Syria should no longer be called ‘protests’, but the "Syrian uprising".[1] Eventually this uprising would escalate into the Syrian civil war which is still going on.

Timeline[edit]

January–February 2011[edit]

28 January, in the large northern city of Al-Hasakah, a man, Hasan Ali Akleh, soaked himself with gasoline and set himself afire.[2]

3 February, Syrian opposition groups called on Facebook and Twitter for a "day of rage" on Friday 4 February.[3] This did not lead to protests in Syria on 4 February.

17 February, a demonstration was held in protest of a police beating of a shop keeper. Protesters chanted: "the Syrian people will not be humiliated".[2]

23 February, Syria's justice minister defended the state of emergency by pointing at the state of war with Israel. A proposal of one parliament member to evaluate the harsh emergency laws was voted down with 249 against one MP.[4]

1–17 March[edit]

  • 6 March, in the southern city of Daraa, with 75,000[5] or 300,000[6] inhabitants, young boys were arrested for writing the slogan "the people want to overthrow the regime"[2] or "the people want the downfall of the regime"[6][7] on walls across the city. Either fourteen[7] or fifteen[6] schoolchildren were arrested, reportedly tortured,[7] or handcuffed and carried out of their classroom.[6]
  • 7 March, thirteen political prisoners in Syria went on hunger strike,[2] demanding an end to political arrests and the restitution of rights that have been removed from civil and political life.[8]
  • 10 March, dozens of Syrian Kurds started hunger strike in solidarity with those of 7 March.[2][9]
  • Tuesday 15 March, dubbed "day of rage" by activists, hundreds staged protests in Damascus and Aleppo, calling for democratic reforms.[13][14][15]
  • 16 March, dozens or around 100 or 150 or 200 people, mostly relatives of political prisoners, demonstrated in Marjeh Square in Damascus, near the Interior Ministry, calling for release of their loved ones.[16][17][18][19] Police threatened them with batons[16][17] and arrested four[16][18] or six[19] people, witnesses and AFP correspondents said; according to the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), dozens of these protesters were arrested.[20]
Also in Aleppo, Al-Hasakah, Daraa, Deir ez-Zor and Hama thousands of protestors gathered, sources in Syria said; reportedly there were some clashes with security forces.[19]

18–25 March[edit]

  • Friday 18 March, after Islamic Friday prayers, protests for freedom and democracy were held in four cities.[21]
In Daraa locals gathered peacefully and marched through the city, demanding the release of the since 6 March detained children and calling for democracy, greater freedom,[7] political freedom and an end to corruption.[22] An amateur video purportedly shows watercanons being used in Daraa to disperse demonstrators.[21] A resident told news agency Reuters that "thousands" of demonstrators chanted: "God, Syria, Freedom".[22] Security forces opened fire, killing four demonstrators.[7] The Syrian government reacted by saying that "infiltrators had caused chaos and riots" in Daraa.[21]
In Damascus, a dozen protesters dared to call for freedom at the main mosque; they were forcefully dispersed by plainclothes police, witnesses said.[21] Also in Homs and Baniyas were demonstrations,[21] in Baniyas repressed violently.[15]
  • 19 March, at funerals in Daraa of victims of the day before, 10,000 people according to a civil rights movement demonstrated.[23] They chanted: "The blood of our martyrs won’t be forgotten".[24] Security forces used tear gas,[23] and shot live ammunition at the mourners,[7][23] killing one,[7] or even six,[24] persons. Witnesses said the gas seemed more toxic than ordinary tear gas.[24] Protests were also in three other cities.[24] A human rights group said, all women jailed 16 March in Damascus had begun a hunger strike in their women prison; another group said, it were ten women on hunger strike.[25]
  • 20 March, President Assad sent a delegation to offer condolences to the families of those killed in the clashes in Daraa.[26] Thousands gathered in and around the Omari mosque, chanting their demands: release of political prisoners, abolition of emergency law, et cetera, and: "No fear after today".[26][27] As the protests heated, the police sprayed tear gas, further angering the protesters who started tearing down a poster of Assad; then the police opened fire into the crowd, witnesses said.[26] (Later, the Institute for the Study of War concluded that security forces had opened fire and had killed fifteen demonstrators.[28])
Protesters then burned the local Ba'ath Party headquarters, the town’s main courthouse and a branch of the SyriaTel phone company owned by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of President Assad.[26][28][29][30] Seven police officers were also killed in the violence.[30]
  • 21 March, in Daraa, thousands brought the one, killed on Saturday 19, to his grave.[31][32] They shouted: "God, Syria, Freedom; the people demand the overcoming of corruption"[32] and: "We are no longer afraid".[6] To calm that situation, president Assad ordered the release of the since 6 March detained children and removed provincial governor Faisal Kulthum from his office.[6] Troops were sent to Daraa.[citation needed][33] Also hundreds demonstrated in the agricultural town Jasim near Daraa.[31][34]
  • 22 March, in Daraa, hundreds of people had gathered around the Omari mosque, the focus of the protests since 18 March, to prevent regime troops from storming it.[35][36][37] Security forces opened fire, killing four protesters, human rights activists said.[35][37] An AFP photographer said he was beaten by security forces in Daraa who seized his equipment.[36]
Loay Hussein, a political prisoner from 1984 to 1991 and now a prominent rights leader, who had been supporting protesters in Daraa, was arrested at his home in the Sehnaya district near Damascus by Syrian authorities.[38] Protesters also gathered today in the southern towns of Inkhil,[37] Nawa,[36] Al-Sanamayn and Jasim[38] and rural areas around Damascus.[37]
  • 23 March, in Daraa, security forces using tear gas and firearms stormed on thousand demonstrators near the Omari mosque (see also 22 March),[39][40][41] an Associated Press reporter heard semi-automatic gunfire.[40] At least 37 people were killed, according to a hospital communication.[42][43] Mobile phone connections to Daraa were cut, and checkpoints in town were manned by uniformed soldiers and plainclothes security agents with rifles.[40] State TV denied a storming of the mosque, saying an "armed gang" had attacked an ambulance and security forces had killed four attackers.[40]
  • 24 March, witnesses reported 20,000 Syrians in Daraa at the funerals of nine protesters killed 23 March, chanting: "The blood of martyrs is not spilt in waste!"[44]
  • Friday 25 March, early on the day, 100,000 people in Daraa attended an anti-government demonstration, according to a political activist.[45] Later, as thousands gathered and marched to the main square in the city after the funeral of five protesters killed this week, they chanted (against the President’s brother): "Maher you coward. Send your troops to liberate the Golan", said a Reuters witness.[46] These thousands moved to the governor’s building where they burned a picture of Bashar al-Assad and toppled a statue of Hafez al-Assad (the former president), a witness said.[45] Then, he said, armed men on the roof of the officer’s club started firing at the crowd;[45] the website of Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports that "apparently" 20 people were killed.[42] Website Aljazeera asserts that protesters also burned the home of the governor in Daraa.[47]
There were also protests in Latakia, Homs, Damascus, Hama, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa.[45][48] Activists reported one[49] or two[50] demonstrators in Latakia shot dead by security forces[49] or killed by a face off between protesters and pro-government supporters,[50] and one shot dead in Homs.[49]
The Syrian state news agency reported an armed gang in the southern town of Al-Sanamayn attacking security forces which resulted in the death of several attackers.[45] A YouTube video showed seven bloody bodies in Al-Sanamayn lying on stretchers, three clearly with gunshot wounds; the claims that 10 to 20 were killed there by security forces were not independently confirmed.[50]
Hundreds of protesters in Damascus expressed their solidarity with the demonstrators killed in Daraa on 23 March, crying out: "We sacrifice our blood, our souls for you in Daraa".[42] But in Damascus there were also rallies of thousands chanting their loyalty in support of President Assad.[47]

26–31 March[edit]

Some activists and/or Al Jazeera considered this an attempt to appease the increasingly angry demonstrators;[47] Rihawi, head of the Syrian Human Rights League, said that releasing those prisoners was "a good start".[52] Website Spiegel Online International suggests however – without revealing its sources – that Assad released jihadists from the country's prisons in March 2011 with the purpose of quickly radicalizing, and thus discrediting, the Syrian opposition.[53] The Syrian government has not yet commented on these releases.[51]
In both Latakia 26 March and Tafas (south of Damascus) 26 or 27 March, residents attending funerals (of demonstrators shot dead Friday) set fire to the local Baath Party building and a police station.[47] This resulted in Latakia in three people reportedly killed after a clash with security forces.[47] Government forces were deployed in Latakia.[54]
In Daraa, hundreds staged a silent sit-in near a mosque, security forces fired tear gas on them, witnesses reported.[47]
  • 27 March, early on the day the Syrian state news agency said that armed gangs had attacked neighbourhoods in Latakia, firing from rooftops.[54] Anti-government protesters however accused government forces of opening fire on them.[54] Activists said some demonstrators set fire to a Ba’ath Party building and attacked businesses.[54] The state news agency said later that in the violence 10 or 12 people had died, including residents, "armed elements" and security personnel.[54]
  • 29 March, after a government appeal on 28 March, today tens of thousands Syrians demonstrated in support of President Assad, in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Al-Hasakah.[55] AP news agency reported that bank employees and other workers were allowed two hours and school children were given the day off to attend these demonstrations.[55] Website Ynetnews, part of the Israeli Yedioth Media Group, mentioned however "hundreds of thousands of Assad supporters" in the streets;[56] and the Syria-based website of Day Press (Dp-news) mentioned "millions of Syrian citizens" rallying "expressing loyalty to the motherland".[57] Also on 29 March, the Syrian Naji al-Otari government resigned, in reaction to the protests; this was made public no sooner than around 14 April.[58]
  • 30 March, President Bashar al-Assad, in his first speech since the protests erupted this month,[59] blamed "conspirators"[59] and "foreign powers"[60] and media channels for stirring unrest in the country,[61] but did not lift the emergency rule.[59] His speech was interrupted by sycophants declaring their undying love for the leader.[62]
  • 31 March (or 30 March but not during his television speech),[59] President Assad promised an investigation into the possibility of replacing the emergency law that is in place since 1963[62] and into the issue of 150,000 Kurds in the region of Hassake[59] who have been disenfranchised since the 1962 census.[62]

1–15 April[edit]

  • Friday 1 April, after Friday prayers,[59] thousands of protesters in several cities demonstrated themselves to be unsatisfied with, and unimpressed by, the vague promises of reform President Assad had made the previous day (see above).[62]
In Douma, a working-class[62] northern suburb[63] of Damascus, citizens gathered on the Municipality Square, hundreds according to Syrian officials, 2,000 according to witnesses who said they were chanting: "Freedom, freedom" when police opened fire on them.[63] At least eleven people were killed.[63][64] Officials however said, an armed group had taken to the rooftops and fired on both citizens and security forces.[63]
In Daraa, now largely sealed off by the military,[62] according to an eyewitness 5,000 people demonstrated, shouting: "We want freedom!"[65] Hundreds tried to march from Daraa to the nearby city of Al-Sanamayn when police fired on them, killing five marchers, reports say.[62]
In Homs, according to the state news agency, an armed group fired on citizens, killing one girl.[63]
In Damascus, at the main Umayyad Mosque, government supporters let worshippers out the gates only in small groups, so no crowd could gather, witnesses said.[62] The state-run News Agency denied that any clashes between protesters and security forces had occurred today in Syria.[62]
  • 2 April, in Daraa and Homs 21 people were arrested according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, presumably because of their protesting the previous day.[59]
External video
Unknown Gunmen Filmed at Syria Demo
(YouTube: Associated Press.)
8 April 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
Protests in Douma, a Damascus suburb, 8 April 2011
  • c. 3–7 April: Quickly after the deadly clash in Douma on 1 April, a high-level Baath party official was sent to Douma to talk to local leaders. Arrangements were made for corpses to be returned to family, injured to be treated, detainees to be freed, and absence of security forces during the funerals.[64] This seems to have stemmed the violence in Douma[64] temporarily, until 15 April.[66]
  • Friday 8 April, after Friday prayers, in Daraa security forces opened fire to disperse stone-throwing protesters, a witness told Al Jazeera. 27 demonstrators were killed, hospital sources and witnesses said. Protesters in chanted: "The people want the overthrow of the regime". The state-run news agency SANA however said, that "armed groups using live ammunition" during the protests killed 19 members of police and security forces and wounded 75.[67][68][69][70]
Unconfirmed reports were that in Harasta, a suburb of Damascus, three people were killed, and in Homs two protesters.[67]
Amnesty International today had recorded 171 names of people killed since 18 March.[67]
Mazen Darwish, an activist in Damascus, said about Assad’s 31 March’ pledges of investigations: "It is not about this problem or that problem; it’s about transforming Syria from dictatorship to democracy; (…) to open up political life, have free press and political parties and lift the emergency rule".[67]
Protests were today also in Latakia, Tartus, Baniyas, Idlib and in other cities.[67] In eastern Syria, thousands of ethnic Kurds demonstrated. In the northeastern city of Qamishli, Kurdish youth apparently rejected Assad’s attempt of overture to Kurds by releasing 48 Kurdish prisoners, when they chanted: "No Kurd, no Arab, Syrian people are one. We salute the martyrs of Daraa".[67]
  • 10 April: In the area of the Baniyas port, apparently electricity, telephone lines and internet access were cut.[71] After anti-government protests in Baniyas, pro-government gunmen and security forces killed four people, according to human rights activists.[58][64][71] In response, an army unit was ambushed, with nine soldiers being killed, the government said.[58][64]
Also on 10 April, president Assad met with Douma residents and gave his personal condolences to the neighbourhood over the deaths on 1 April.[64]
  • Between 10–12 April, in the town of Baida near Baniyas, hundreds of men were arrested.[64]
  • 13 April: in Baida, many women demonstrated to demand that the detained men be freed.[64]
  • 14 April: President Assad met with a delegation close to the protesters in Daraa.[64] The Daraa delegation afterwards said, Assad had promised them to lift the emergency law by 25 April.[66]
In Baniyas, according to state media, snipers fatally shot a patrolling soldier.[58]
State media announced a new government under Prime Minister Adel Safar.[58] In the evening, state television announced that president Assad had "decided to release all those detained after recent events who did not commit crimes against the nation and the citizens".[64]
  • Friday 15 April, In the Damascus suburb Douma, thousands of protesters marched towards central Damascus when near Abasyeen Square they were attacked by security forces and intelligence services with pistols and sticks and tear gas, witnesses and activists said.[66]
In the Barzeh district in Damascus, 250 protesters rallying in front of the Salam mosque were surrounded by dozens of armed men in plainclothes, after which violence reportedly erupted.[66][72]
In Daraa, thousands demonstrated with government permission; security forces were not on the streets. Protests were also reported in Baniyas, Latakia, Baida, Homs, Deir ez-Zor and Qamishli. In these cities as in Daraa, some protesters just demanded political reforms, others called for complete regime change or the toppling of the regime.[66][73]

16–24 April[edit]

  • 16 April, President Assad, in a speech broadcast by state television, said that the emergency law – banning public gatherings of more than five people – would be lifted by next week.[74][75]
In Daraa, thousands marched, chanting: "The people want the overthrow of the regime", witnesses said.[74]
In Douma, 1500 staged a sit-in to demand the release of 140 locals who were arrested in a march on 15 April, activists said.[74]
In Latakia, a rally following a funeral was attacked by security forces firing in the air, a rights campaigner said.[74]
In Baniyas, 1000 women marched in an all female pro-democracy protest: "Not Sunni, not Alawite. Freedom is what we all want", they reportedly chanted.[75]
  • 17 April, in Homs, after evening prayers, a group of 40 demonstrators gathered outside a mosque chanting "freedom", according to a witness; men in civilian clothes jumped out of cars and started firing at the crowd; according to activists, 25 people were killed.[76]
  • 18 April, in Homs, early on the day, thousands attended the funerals of protesters killed in that town.[76] Mourners reportedly chanted: "Either freedom or death, the people want to topple this regime". A 45-year old protester told Al Jazeera: "For decades we’ve been ruled by an iron fist, by the force of weapon", "It’s the first time in my life I break the barrier of silence".[76]
Also that Monday, Syria’s interior ministry stated that the country was facing an "armed insurrection under the motto of Jihad to set up a Salafist state".[76]
Late that Monday night, according to a prominent activist, 10,000 people held a sit-in protest at the main central square in Homs.[76] Security forces then opened fire and used tear gas to disperse this sit-in on this Clock Square.[77] According to witnesses, security agents then took up positions to seal off the area and blocked the roads to the square with fire trucks, making it look like a war zone.[77] Around midnight, leftist opposition figure Mahmoud Issa was arrested from his house in Homs.[77]
  • 19 April, in Homs, security forces again fired on protesters.[77] On 18 and 19 April together, 21 protesters were shot dead in Homs by security police and Alawite gunmen known as ‘al-shabbiha’.[78] Wissam Tarif, director of the Insan human rights group, told Reuters that civilian shabbiha and uniformed security forces, mixed, and all carrying weapons, were now obvious in the streets of Homs.[78]
The government passed a bill today, lifting the emergency law after 48 years. President Assad still had to sign the legislation.[77]
  • 21 April: President Assad endorsed the government law of 19 April, ending Syria’s state of emergency.[78][79] Reuters wrote, and leading activist Al-Maleh said, that this abolition hardly infringed on the powers of security forces to arbitrary arrests and detentions, or on other state tools of repression.[78]
  • Friday, 22 April: On this, by activists dubbed, "Great Friday"[80] (Arabic: الجمعة العظيمة[81]), anti-government protests were held in at least 20 towns[82] across Syria.[80] Cries for vengeance mixed with calls for the government’s fall.[82] Security forces quelled the protests with live ammunition and tear gas.[80]
News media and war researchers seem to slightly disagree on the number of civilian casualties on this 22 April. The New York Times estimated, both on 23 April[83][84] and on 6 May,[85] that number as: "at least 109". Joseph Holliday from the Institute for the Study of War in December 2011 agrees with that number and called 22 April the deadliest day in Syria between March and September 2011.[86] However: Al Jazeera English on 29 April 2011 estimated that on 22 April alone in Daraa already 100 people had been killed.[87]
A protester from a Damascus suburb said via phone to Al Jazeera media network that peaceful demonstrators, going with olive branches, were surprised by the security forces’ shooting.[80] A protester in Douma said to The New York Times: "We are not scared anymore. We are sad and we are disappointed at this regime and at the president. Protests, demonstrations and death are now part of the daily routine".[82]
First counts of deaths were in Homs 21,[80] in Izra 15.[80][82] For Daraa an initial death-toll was not published; a week later Al Jazeera estimated 100 people to have perished in that southern town on 22 April.[87] Deaths also were reported in the Damascus suburbs Muadamiyat,[80] Douma,[80] Zamalka,[80] Barza[83] and Qabon.[83] In two Damascus suburbs, protesters tore down Assad’s picture and demolished statues of Assad’s father.[82][83]
In Damascus after Friday Prayer at the al-Hassan Mosque, hundreds of people gathered. Some of them chanted: "The people want the fall of the government", security forces dispersed the protests with tear gas, witnesses said.[82] A New York Times reporter assumed that the Syrian government emphatically tried to keep the largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, relatively subdued.[82]
At Friday night, Syrian state television aired a talk show where speakers blamed foreign media, like Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya and BBC Arabic, for inciting the protests.[80]
  • 23 April: The events of the previous, very bloody, day incited Al Jazeera as probably the first prominent international news channel to entitle the Syrian protests since 15 March no longer as merely ‘protests’ but henceforward as an "uprising".[80] In Douma, Barza and another town today tens of thousands buried protesters killed the previous day, when security forces fired into these crowds of mourners. Again 11 people were killed, activists and witnesses said.[83]
  • 24 April: In the northern coastal city of Jableh a crackdown of security forces and Syrian army lasted into the night, killing twelve people. A resident said: "The army is deployed all over the area (…) It’s a street war".[5]

25–30 April[edit]

Siege of Daraa[edit]

Between 25 April and 5 May 2011 the Syrian army besieged Daraa, since 18 March the most ardent centre of the Syrian protests. The army deployed up to 20 or 30 tanks, between hundreds and 6,000 troops, snipers on roofs, and helicopters with paratroopers for the final conquest of the focal Omari Mosque on Saturday 30 April. Probably 244 civilians were killed; houses were searched to arrest protesters, houses were shelled; almost 1,000 men have reportedly been rounded up. "They want to teach Syria a lesson by teaching Daraa a lesson", a resident commented. There were rumours of soldiers, or an entire army division, having defected and joined the protesters; these reports have until today not been independently verified. The government claimed it was battling "terrorist groups" in Daraa. After withdrawal of the troops from Daraa on 5 May, army units remained deployed at the city’s entrances.

Siege of Douma[edit]

Douma, a working-class suburb of capital Damascus that had also assumed a vital role in the Syrian protests (see reports 1, 3, 10, 15, 16, 22 and 23 April) was besieged by army and security forces for at least several days, end of April 2011.

  • Monday 25 April: In Douma security forces arrested probably handsful of people.[5]
  • 26 April: According to a Human Rights Watch researcher, thousands of government troops raided homes in Douma to arrest suspected protesters.[88]
  • 27+28 April: Douma was completely sealed off by security forces, with its residents in need of supplies.[89]

Remaining Syria[edit]

  • 25 April: The events of 25 April, especially those in Daraa (see above) incited the prominent international news media to entitle the Syrian protests since 15 March no longer as merely ‘protests, but as an "uprising".[1] Apart from their actions in Daraa and Douma (see above), security forces also searched houses in Azra near Daraa, and entered Damascus-suburb Maadamiah arresting probably handsful of people.[5] Border crossings into Jordan near the southern town of Daraa were reportedly sealed.[5]
  • 28 April: The leadership of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, in exile since in 1982 the Brotherhood was crushed by the regime, has today for the first time since the demonstrations in Syria began in March, directly supported these protests: "Do not let the regime besiege your compatriots. Chant with one voice for freedom and dignity. Do not allow the tyrant to enslave you. God is great."[87]
Since March, 1,000 Syrians have crossed the border into Lebanon, most of them not via the official border crossings.[90]
  • Friday 29 April: On this Friday dubbed "day of rage" in most major towns in Syria protests were held, like Homs, Baniyas, Latakia, Raqqa, Hama, Qamishli, Deir ez-Zor,[87] and, for the first time, also in the heart of Damascus, in the Maidan district.[87][91] 10,000 protesters in Baniyas and some 15,000 in Qamishli and surrounding towns were said to have yelled: "With our soul and with our blood we will sacrifice ourselves for Daraa", or comparable chants.[87] In Damascus-suburb Siqba protesters chanted: "We’re the youth revolution, not thugs or terrorists".[87]
Apart from the 33 people killed in Daraa (see above), in Homs 25 people were reported killed, according to activists,[92] and 6 people elsewhere.[91] The authorities said that today nine members of security forces were killed by "terrorist groups".[92]
In Deir Ez-Zor, 1,000 people emerged from a mosque and were dispersed by security forces, told AFP.[87]
  • 30 April: 138 members of the Syrian Ba'ath Party quit in protest against the deadly crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, according to AFP information.[93] Since mid-March 550 people died in the Syrian clashes according to Arab and Syrian organisations for human rights.[93]

The consecutive Timeline-article on these Syrian protests and uprising (later to escalate into civil war) is: Timeline of the Syrian Civil War (May–August 2011)

References[edit]

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